It’s diesel or noth­ing

Central Otago Mirror - - MOTORING - By DAVE LEGGETT

IF there’s any need for proof that the fu­ture of the in­ter­nal com­bus­tion en­gine is with diesel it’s Audi’s new flag­ship, the A8.

It’s diesel or noth­ing in the A8, there is no petrol op­tion in this mar­ket any­way. Audi New Zealand didn’t think it was nec­es­sary be­cause it be­lieves there is ev­ery­thing a pres­tige car driver needs in its twin turbo diesel.

At 4.2-litres it’s vir­tu­ally the same size as the petrol power unit that is still avail­able in Europe. And it also pro­duces a very sim­i­lar power out­put – 258kW in the diesel and 273kW in the petrol.

But that’s ba­si­cally where the sim­i­lar­i­ties end. The petrol pro­duces max­i­mum torque of 445Nm at 3500rpm.

The diesel’s is a mas­sive 800Nm and it comes on as low as 1750rpm.

And that is why the choice of a diesel is a no-brainer. Put your foot down and diesel hardly has to think about it. It just pins its ears back and goes for it as the twin tur­bocharg­ers spin up. And it keeps on go­ing. There is a solid rush of ac­cel­er­a­tion and sud­denly the plane has taken off and it’s head­ing su­personic.

The A8 is not a light car de­spite Audi’s ef­forts to keep the weight down with its mainly alu­minium body. That’s be­cause there’s a lot of equip­ment on board and it’s a big ve­hi­cle any­way. So with the diesel en­gine now bal­anced nicely be­hind the front axle the car weighs still in at 5kg un­der two tonnes.

Yet the big diesel gives it the ac­cel­er­a­tion of a sports car. Audi says it will do the stand­ing 0 to 100kmh sprint in 5.5 sec­onds al­though it was just over 6.5 sec­onds on my reck­on­ing. No mat­ter, it’s very quick.

It is also very eco­nom­i­cal, de­spite the per­for­mance that is avail­able. And that’s also one of the big ad­van­tages of the diesel. Audi quotes com­bined cy­cle fuel econ­omy fig­ures of 7.6 litres per 100km.

These may or not be par­tic­u­larly rel­e­vant to some­one who has just spent $245,000-plus on a car. But they do mean it has a rea­son­able sort of range from the big tank.

So what are the dis­ad­van­tages of a diesel in a lux­ury li­mou­sine? None.

AUDI NZ be­lieves that the buyer at the up­per end of the mar­ket is acutely aware of the ad­van­tages of diesel hav­ing al­ready ex­pe­ri­enced its value in other larger ve­hi­cles like the Q7 sports util­ity.

Most would never sus­pect that the big Audi has a diesel un­der the bon­net. If they did it would help dis­pel the myths that diesel has to be noisy and dirty.

There are no badges to in­di­cate the A8 as diesel pow­ered and while there might be a lit­tle more un­der­ly­ing rum­ble at rest there is no sug­ges­tion at speed that it’s not a petrol. Apart from that in­cred­i­ble per­for­mance.

That’s all put to use through a big new eight-speed trans­mis­sion. If it was a man­ual it would be easy to lose your way and never be in the right gear. But the Audi’s elec­tron­ics get around that prob­lem and en­sure it’s run­ning in the right one. Audi has re­designed the shift lever in this new car and it’s quite dif­fer­ent from a con­ven­tional shift.

A but­ton at one end of the T bar switches the car into drive, park and re­verse and it’s quite a nat­u­ral sort of sys­tem. Audi also recog­nises that it is a nat­u­ral place to put the left hand and ac­cept it is also a con­ve­nient hand rest.

The one badge that is on the car is the Quat­tro one sig­ni­fy­ing the all-wheel-drive sys­tem. It makes the A8 plat­form ex­tremely sta­ble.

Like the trans­mis­sion the all­wheel-drive sys­tem is tied into the Drive Se­lect elec­tronic chas­sis tun­ing sys­tem. The sys­tem con­trols the steer­ing re­sponse depend­ing on road speed and the weight­ing of the steer­ing sys­tem.

There is the choice of four modes and the driver can change them at the push of a but­ton. The lux­ury li­mou­sine waft­ing down the mo­tor­way can quickly change into sports mode to wind through the back roads.

As the flag­ship Audi, the A8 also gets the very lat­est crash safety sys­tems like adap­tive cruise con­trol and lane as­sist that keeps the car run­ning straight if the driver nods off. There is also a radar based sys­tem that de­tects other ve­hi­cles in the A8’s per­sonal space.

It’s al­most 2m wide, not count­ing the mir­rors, and more than 5.1m long. So the A8 has huge pres­ence and it does feel very big at times. But big out­side means big in­side and as ex­pected the rear seats are made to lounge in with su­perb leg and foot room. And it’s all done in a lux­u­ri­ous at­mos­phere – leather, wal­nut and thick car­pets. One of the rea­sons it’s so quiet is the dou­ble glaz­ing in the win­dows.

There are a host of lux­ury and con­ve­nience fea­tures. There are the usual things like the elec­tric park brake, the start-stop but­ton, park as­sist, the 10 speaker au­dio sys­tem and tele­vi­sion. But there is also the elec­tric door and boot clos­ing sys­tem that pulls the doors shut tight when they’re al­most there and the light­ing in the ceil­ing con­sole unit and round the top of the B pil­lars that can be changed to suit the moods.

The MMI sys­tem, which puts the con­trols for the au­dio, air con­di­tion­ing, sat nav and phone all in one place can now be con­trolled on a touch screen. Audi calls the A8 its mas­ter­piece. It’s easy to see why.

Speed­ster: When the foot goes down, the Audi A8 pins its ears back.

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